Discovering your partner has been cheating in an extramarital affair will rock your marriage. If you’re looking for ways to overcome infidelity and rebuild trust, here’s a list of questions and answers.

Exploring them will help you explore what healthy couples have done to heal their pain and move on with their lives. Surviving infidelity will present you with a challenge. Still, many couples not only stay together but go on to have a happier, healthier marriage after the affair.

As a marriage counselor of 40 years, I have seen many couples recover trust in their relationship. They have moved from hurt, rage, and despair to find a way to thrive together.

The truth is that 70% of the couples who decide to commit to extramarital recovery counseling find ways to restore a bond of intimacy. Maria Class - Cuddle expert, who has researched the dynamics of the aftermath of cheating, establishes that growing beyond an affair for couples who seek the right help. Of course, this assumes they have both committed themselves to the healing process.

Below are my 21 most important questions to consider as you and your spouse work on recovering from an affair. Portraying your spouse by breaking your vows tends to serve as a symptom of the more significant issues. Take some time to read through all 21 questions and answers to discern how you might begin the healing process.

To start recovering from an affair, you may wonder:

1. Is it possible for couples to rebuild their marriage, and restore trust, after the discovery of infidelity or cheating?

Yes, if the betraying spouse expresses remorse and seeks help to understand what led to the affair and breaking of the vows.

Couples need to seek to understand what made the marriage vulnerable to an affair in the first place. Overcoming infidelity requires an understanding of forgiveness and a willingness to rebuild the relationship in ways not previously explored.

2. Are there any things that we should know or do to get through the first few weeks?

Yes. Ask a few questions: Who did you have a affair with? Who knows? How long did it last? Where did it take place? Finally, is it over?

Consider this, both of you are running a psychological marathon, so get plenty of sleep, eat healthily, exercise aerobically, and call timeouts.

Take a break from the fighting saves your relationship when one or both of you are yelling things like “You always…, You never….”

Such a style of fighting kicks in when you’ve moved into the fight or flight or freeze zone. Your heartbeat has gone over 95 beats per minute. You’re starting to play the game of somebody has gotta be wrong, and it’s not me. Guess who each of you thinks is wrong.

Set up a time to hear each other out when you have soothed yourselves. Only then can you explore the issues and make progress.  

3. What is the predominant feeling for each partner?

The hurt partner will feel a sense of betrayal that the cheating occurred. You can understand this since assumed she or he had cherished the promise of fidelity.

The partner who has reached outside of the relationship will feel a deep sense of regret and remorse. He or she will feel astounded at the amount of pain that the betrayal has caused. This partner may hate the label of having cheated and yet struggle with the knowledge that an affair has happened.  

4. Should there be more questions right away?

For the betrayed partner, the compulsion to demand details poses a huge temptation. You experience that your world has turned upside down. What you thought you could trust and believe has changed.

Treat this as a note of caution. If you wait until you are feeling more grounded, you will be able to take in the facts without them becoming etched into your brain for flashbacks later.

5. What are flashbacks?

After 9/11, many people would see beautiful blue skies and have flashbacks to their memories of fearing that their loved one was dead. They would re-experience the terror as if it was happening again right in the present moment.

Most individuals who have felt betrayed by infidelity or feel their partner has been cheating will react to specific triggers. For example, a movie about an extramarital affair will cause a re-experiencing of helplessness similar to what you felt upon learning about the details of the infidelity. These memories can explode into consciousness, bringing it all back.

6. What helps in the recovery?

You know the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” Well, in the first few weeks and months, both of you will struggle with the pain. Yet coming to rebuild your relationship takes time.

As the betraying spouse, you will want to express remorse. You will find yourself listening over and over to the depth of the hurt. Stick with it, this will pay off. Show up when you say will. Look for what your partner needs to regain trust.

If you are the hurting partner, take care of your self by eating well, exercising, and sleeping. And of course, confiding in friends whom you can trust to support your decision to work it through.

7. What helps to re-establish trust?

Naturally, you must follow your remorse by an intentional commitment to being open to scrutiny and living up to promises.

8. However, doesn’t this become tedious and leave a sense of being entirely controlled by the other?

Yes, those feelings come on strong. Like the police officer who wants to find out if you’re telling the truth, the person feeling betrayed finds themselves interrogating late into the night. Your spouse may feel very unclear about the details. When new details emerge, this can be quite damaging to developing trust.

So even though it may feel like facing into a buzz saw, seek to be honest about the detail. Even though you fear it will hurt more, you will show loyalty to your spouse’s wanting to get to the bottom of what really happened.

Most importantly, you don’t want your hurting spouse to feel as though you’re protecting the affair partner.

9. How should I respond to the interrogation, if I think I cannot stand it?

Let me suggest that you agree ahead of time that you will need a time out. You need to be aware of how angry you will get if you don’t. However, your partner needs to feel you are not ducking out of the exploration all of the time.

Be sure to pick up the discussion the next day to go back over the details so that healing can take place.

10. It seems like this will never stop.

You probably both fear that. If you, as the betraying partner, can see how hard it is for the hurting spouse to control the feelings, then you may feel more compassion. Then the two of you can work together to see that caring about the obsessive thought poses the challenge, rather than turn and attack each other.

11. How in the world do we do that?

So the person who has been cheated upon needs to teach the betraying partner what works. The partner who needs soothing, when the flashbacks come, needs to identify what behavior the other can offer to help walk through the beginning, middle, and end of the episode. Remember, panic attacks do not last forever.